Gideon, Suffering, and Last Things

Our church has been preaching through Judges for the last several months. We had some great messages from Judges 6 on Gideon’s character and decision making, but when I arrived at Judges 7, I saw a connection to bigger biblical truths about how God works throughout history and his promises for the future.

James 1:2–3 (HCSB) Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

The text of Judges 7 places us in the Jezreel Valley. The collective armies of the Midianites, Amalekites, and people of the east are spread across the valley like locusts. At least 120,000 strong. Gideon has his force of 32,000 encamped beside a spring. God takes the responsibility of sorting his army down to a measly 300 men so that his glory for the victory is not misplaced. God miraculously uses these few men to incite confusion leading to confusion and victory.

This is not the first time that God provides victory through confusion. The most recent account happened right here in the Jezreel Valley as well. God delivered the people from Sisera and his chariots of iron through Deborah and Barak in Judges 4. In Exodus 14, God parts the Red Sea and throws the Egyptians into chaos. In each event, the people of God are suffering. They cry out to God, he miraculously saves them, and this leads them to worship.

Exodus 15:2 (HCSB) The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

Judges 5:2–3 (HCSB) When the leaders lead in Israel, when the people volunteer, praise the Lord. Listen, kings! Pay attention, princes! I will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.

Judges 7:15 (HCSB) 15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to Israel’s camp and said, “Get up, for the Lord has handed the Midianite camp over to you.”

Another great example of this comes from 2 Chronicles 20. God calls on Jehoshaphat and the people to just wake up and watch how he will deliver the people. Like Gideon, they worship just at the promise of victory.

2 Chronicles 20:17–19 (HCSB) …17 You do not have to fight this battle. Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He is with you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Tomorrow, go out to face them, for Yahweh is with you.’” 18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord to worship Him. 19 Then the Levites from the sons of the Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel shouting with a loud voice.

This type of salvation continues into eschatology as well. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, Gog, the ruler of Magog, comes with a huge army to destroy Israel. God causes this to happen. He brings this suffering. Why? So that he is worshipped.

Ezekiel 38:16b (HCSB) It will happen in the last days, Gog, that I will bring you against My land so that the nations may know Me, when I show Myself holy through you in their sight.

These promises all have to do with the ultimate Day of YHWH. The day when God will make himself know to the world, bringing judgment that leads to worship.

In these events, the Valley of Jezreel plays an important role in history and, whether physically or symbolically, in the future. 1 Kings 18, God proves himself before the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (the western edge of the valley). Joel 3, multitudes come against God in the “Valley of Decision”Zechariah 12:11, there is mourning for the one who was pierced like the mourning at Megiddo (in Jezreel). Revelation 16:14, armies gather at Megiddo. Revelation 20:7-15, Satan instigates war against God and is defeated.

In world events or our own lives, God gives suffering to show gracious deliverance which leads to genuine worship.

Personally, I was reminded of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11. It’s clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Because he loved them he stayed away longer, letting Lazarus suffer and die, so that God might be glorified and many would come to belief. We have no idea what situations God allows us to endure, so that he can be most glorified.

Even as the world slowly decays and suffering increases, we know that God is not slow to return. As Peter explained,

2 Peter 3:9 (HCSB) The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

We make the most of the time that we have, calling everyone to come to repentance. We endure suffering in this life knowing that, today or in the end, God will graciously deliver us so that the world will worship him.